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Film Festival of Columbus hopes to make the city into film hub

Courtesy of Fontine Baptiste

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For aspiring filmmakers looking to break into the business, or fans looking to spot the next big talents, film festivals have become a staple.

Filmmakers have looked to high-profile festivals such as Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, and Colorado’s Telluride Film Festival to jump-start their careers.

This week, Columbus looks to take its first steps toward becoming one such film hot spot.

The Film Festival of Columbus (FFOCOL) is scheduled for Tuesday through Friday at the Gateway Film Center. Among the festival’s programming will be 15 feature-length films, five short films and a program featuring short films directed by teens.

FFOCOL is part of idUS Week, which is affiliated with the Columbus bicentennial celebration as the “future-looking portion of the celebration” through workshops and exhibits, according to idUS’ website. John Daugherty, managing partner of Vital Companies, which is helping to produce the festival, said in an email that idUS week is part of an initiative to build recognition of Columbus developing as a cultural city.

“FFOCOL is more about promoting the city than just promoting the festival itself,” Daugherty said. “Cleveland and (Cincinnati) have great film festivals that have been around for decades and they do a lot for those cities. This first year FFOCOL is small … In the coming years we want to bring in those bigger name filmmakers and actors to keep promoting the city.”

While there are no high-profile filmmakers participating in FFOCOL yet, some recognizable figures are slated to be seen onscreen.

The closing film “Nobody Walks” stars John Krasinski of NBC’s “The Office” and was co-written by Lena Dunham, star and creator of the HBO series “Girls.”

Another film, “Not That Funny,” features Fox’s “Arrested Development” and HBO’s “Veep” star Tony Hale.

Daugherty said he hopes that one side effect of FFOCOL is that Columbus becomes more of a filmmaking hub.

“Columbus has been overlooked as a filming destination, which is truly unfortunate because Columbus has much to offer,” Daugherty said. “We have the rural, urban and suburban settings. We have a plethora of local music, art and businesses.”

According to Ohio Film Office, in 2011, only $3.7 million was spent in Central Ohio on film projects, whereas $68 million was spent in the Cleveland/Akron area and $30 million in Cincinnati.

Chris Hamel, president of Gateway Film Center, said discussion of hosting a film festival as part of idUS started earlier this year.

“I really believe FFOCOL will rival any film festival in the United States,” Hamel said. “The Film Center was designed to host events just like this one so patrons, filmmakers and organizers can congregate in an intimate, film-driven environment.”

A closing party for the festival is scheduled for 10 p.m. Thursday at Skully’s Music-Diner, which is located at 1151 N. High St.

Earl “Skully” Webb, owner of Skully’s, said there will be a special area set aside for FFOCOL attendees so that it does not interfere with the usual Skully’s schedule.

“We have our regular retro party that we throw (on Thursdays),” Webb said. “We’re not really changing anything we do. It’s just our same event.”

There seems to be a definite sense of optimism among those in charge of planning FFOCOL. Daugherty and Hamel said they believe it will be enough of a success to become an annual event. Hamel also said that wit might be modest now, but he has faith the festival will increase in stature every year.

“I think FFOCOL will be a huge hit and will return annually,” Hamel said. “Considering the innovative things that are happening in the film world here … Columbus is really establishing itself nationally as a place to see a dynamic and diverse selection of films.”

Festival passes are $100 the day of the festival and priced at $75 in advance. The pass is good for all films including opening night on Tuesday. Individual day passes for Wednesday or Thursday are available for $35 and OSU students have the option of seeing individual films for $6.50 a ticket.

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